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“I have had physiotherapy since I was eight months old. I enjoy the time I spend at Saksham”

A diagnosis in infancy, an inclusive environment in school, and regular training in a vocational centre have made all the difference to the life of Manas Wadhwa (21) from Amritsar. He could well be a poster boy for how persons with disabilities can thrive, given the right support at the right time.
The baby got off to a shaky start, though. His mother Cherry Wadhwa experienced severe bleeding when she was almost seven months pregnant with Manas and was recommended an immediate Caesarean Section. Cherry and her husband Ashish started doubting if all was well when the baby was around four months old. They had already experienced parenthood with their daughter Saadhikaa, then a four-year-old, so they began to notice the baby’s awkward movements and suspected that his growth trajectory was different from that of the average kid of his age. The hospitals visits began. Initially a thyroid test was recommended as that looked like a probable cause. But post MRI and EEG the doctors concluded that Manas had Cerebral Palsy (CP). Manas started physiotherapy when he was just eight months old and it continues to date.
Manas started going to playschool but the turning point was when he got admission to Spring Dale Senior School, Amritsar in Grade 1. Here he encountered a compassionate special educator Prerna Khanna. She had been spearheading the agenda of making inclusion a part of the mainstream school system. Her own personal journey had motivated her to bring about this change. Today other parents have joined her and are helping sensitise, educate, and create more awareness among the community about CP. Cherry is actively involved with this.
Manas found it very easy to adjust to his school. As Cherry puts it, “Children are like ‘geeli mitti’ (like wet clay, mouldable).” They accepted Manas with open arms. Over and above this ‘Prerna-ma’am’ provided care and focussed on training kids in sports, building speaking skills, and overall development. This supportive environment helped him finish his Grade 10 in 2022.
Manas is now enjoying his next phase, where he is attached to Saksham Bhavans Aashray, a sewa project of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Amritsar Kendra. This is a vocational and rehabilitation centre for Persons with Disabilities. From 9.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m. Manas spends his time in this centre where he not only goes through physiotherapy and occupational therapy but is also taught life skills, daily life activities, cooking, and art and craft. He has a group of good friends who get together to sing, dance, and play table cricket. The kids in the centre make rakhis, envelopes, paper bags, wine bags, diyas, and masalas to name a few products. Parents find opportunities for the kids to exhibit these and earn money. Cherry and five other mothers and volunteers are actively involved in planning these exhibitions.
Manas uses a walker to move inside the house and a wheelchair when he is stepping out. Therapy has enabled him to independently visit the toilet, change his clothes (he needs help in wearing them), and eat his food. Physiotherapy is still very painful and it sometimes makes him lose his cool, but he has to grit his teeth and go through with it.
Manas is deeply attached to Saadhikaa. When she once went to Canada and stayed there for 18 months he missed her so badly that they endeavoured to video-call each other every day, despite the different time zones. Cherry’s message to all is: “Show your concern for the disabled by not pitying them but by being sensitive towards their needs. Educate yourselves and be more aware to create space for them to live in this society.”


Vicky Roy